Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg
by Frederick the Great
A New Translation by Levi Bookin
FREDERICK-WILLIAM (THE GREAT ELECTOR)
Frederick-William was born at Berlin on 6th February 1620. He was worthy of the name Great that his people and his neighbors unanimously gave him. Heaven had specially formed him to re-establish order by his activity in a country where the poor administration of the preceding government had caused total confusion; and to be the defender and the restorer of his land, and the honor and glory of his house. The merit of a great king was united in him with the mediocre fortune of an elector; above the rank that he occupied, he displayed in his government the virtues of a strong soul and a superior spirit, sometimes tempering his heroism with his prudence, and sometimes abandoning himself to that fine enthusiasm which seizes our admiration. He re-established his old dominions by his wisdom, and acquired new ones by his statesmanship. He formed his projects and executed them himself. The effect of his good faith was that he assisted his allies; and the effect of his eminence, that he defended his people. In unforeseen danger, he found unexpected resources; and in small matters, as in important ones, he always appeared equally great.
The education of this elector had been that of a hero. He learned to win, at an age when mankind generally are learning learn to stammer their thoughts. The camp of Frederick-Henry of Orange was his military school; he was at the sieges of the fortresses of Schenk and Breda.
Schwartzenberg, George-William's minister, knowing the wonderful spirit of the young prince, distanced him from the court of his father, and held him in Holland as much as he could, not feeling his virtues pure enough to withstand examination by a monitor similarly enlightened. Despite the minister, however, the young prince went to seek his father and made the journey to Prussia with the Elector, where the death of George-William put him in possession of his dominions.
Frederick-William was twenty years of age when he succeeded to the Electorate; but his territories were partly in the hands of the Swedes, who had made of the Electorate an awful desert, where one recognized villages only by mounds of ashes that prevented the grass from growing there; and towns, only by rubble and ruins. The duchies of the House of Cleves were prey to the Spanish and the Dutch, who demanded exorbitant contributions and who pillaged them on the pretext of defending them. Prussia, which Gustavus-Adolphus had invaded a short time previously, bled still from the wounds received during that war.
In circumstances so desperate, where his inheritance had been invaded by so many sovereigns, a prince, without possession of his territories, an elector without power, an ally without friends, Frederick-William began his reign. And in such early youth that, being the age of distractions, scarcely renders people capable of obedience, he showed signs of consummate wisdom and all the virtues that rendered him worthy of a commander of men.
He began by establishing order in his finances; he balanced his expenditure against his receipts, and rid himself of ministers whose bad administration had the most contributed to the misfortunes of his people. The Count of Schwartzenberg, who saw his authority limited, resigned of his own accord from his positions. He was governor of the Mark, president of the council, grand chamberlain and grand commander of Malta. He had united on himself all the important duties; he was more sovereign than his master; and as he had been a creature of the house of Austria, he took refuge in Vienna, where he died the same year. His son, whom he had had elected assistant of the Order and of the command of Malta, was not recognized by the Elector who, what is more, made him restore all the bailiwicks belonging to the State that the count, his father, had appropriated.
After the death of the Count, the Elector sent Baron von Burgsdorff to Spandau and to Kuestrin to affix his seal on the effects of the deceased. The commandants of these fortresses refused to obey him on the pretext that they depended only on the Emperor, to whom they had made an oath. Burgsdorff dissembled and, without pointing out by useless words the insolence of this refusal, lay in wait for Rochow, commandant of Spandau, whom he seized one day when he imprudently came out of his fortress. The Elector had this rebellious subject beheaded, as he deserved; and, intimidated by this example, the commandants of other places settled down immediately to obedience.
King Ladislaus of Poland gave the investiture of Prussia to Frederick-William, who received it in person, and engaged to pay him an annual tribute of a hundred and twenty thousand florins, and not to make either a cease-fire or peace with the enemies of that crown. The Baron of Lueben received that of the Electorate from the Emperor Ferdinand 3rd, but did not obtain that of the duchies of the House of Cleves because the differences concerning this succession had not been decided between the contenders.
After completing these formalities, the Elector only thought of the means of retrieving his territories from between the hands of those who had usurped them; he negotiated, and his statesmanship put him in possession of his dominions. He concluded a cease-fire for twenty years with the Swedes, who evacuated the greater part of his dominions; he paid one hundred and forty thousand crowns to the Swedish garrisons that still held several towns, and made them deliver a thousand bushels of corn a year. He similarly made a treaty with the Hessians, that they would hand over a part of the country of Cleves which they were holding; and from the Dutch, he obtained the evacuation of several other towns.
All the powers of Europe, finally weary of a war whose burden weighed it down, and which from one day to the next became more ruinous, felt the same desire to re-establish peace between them. The towns of Osnabruck and Munster were chosen as the places most suitable to open the conferences; and Frederick-William sent his ministers.
The multitude of matters, the complication of the causes, so much ambition to satisfy: religion, supremacies, the threat to Imperial authority, and the liberties of the German body, all this enormous chaos to disentangle, occupied the plenipotentiaries until the year 1647, when the principal articles of the peace were agreed between them.
We will not report on the Treaty of Westphalia in all its extent, and we will satisfy ourselves by rendering an account of the articles of this treaty that are relevant to this history. France, which had married the interests of Sweden, demanded that that kingdom retain Pomerania, in compensation for the expenses caused to Gustavus-Adolphus and his successors by the war. And, although the Empire and the Elector refused to renounce Pomerania, Frederick-William was finally convinced to cede Western Pomerania, the isles of Rugen and Wollin, the towns of Stettin, Garz, and Gollnow, and the three mouths of the Oder, to the Swedes. [The Treaty] provided that if the male descendants of the electoral line died out, Pomerania and the New Mark would revert to Sweden and that meanwhile the two houses would be permitted to carry the arms of these provinces. Corresponding to this cession, the bishoprics of Halberstadt, Minden, and Cammin were secularized in favor of the Elector, which at the same time put him in possession of the county of Hohnstein and Regenstein; and he received the expectation of the archbishopric of Magdeburg, of which Augustus of Saxony was then administrator. As to religion, it was agreed that Lutheranism and Calvinism would be authorized from then on in the Holy Roman Empire.
This peace, which served as a basis for all the possessions and all the rights of the princes of Germany, and of which Louis 14th became the guarantor, was published in the year 1648.
The following year, the Elector, whose interests had thus been fixed, concluded a new treaty with the Swedes for the settlement of borders, and for the quittance of several debts, of which Sweden wanted to pay only a quarter. It was only in the year 1650 that the Electorate, Pomerania and the duchies of Cleves, were entirely evacuated by the Swedes and the Dutch.
The Duke of Neuburg thought to throw matters into the same confusion from which they had just been extracted with so much trouble. He decided to persecute the Protestants of the Duchy of Juliers and Berg with rigor, over whom Frederick-William declared himself their protector, and he sent General Sparr with troops onto the territory of the Duke, at the same time proposing an accommodation with him through the mediation of the Dutch.
Charles 4th, Duke of Lorraine, a rootless and vagabond prince, hunted from his dominions by France, and who, with a small body of troops led the life of a Tartar rather than that of a sovereign, went at this time to the aid of the Duke of Neuburg. Upon his arrival, the pacific dispositions of the two parties seemed to be vanishing; nevertheless, they came to an agreement. As to the order of their possessions, they adhered to the Treaty of Westphalia; and as to liberty of conscience, to those made between 1612 and 1647.
At this time, there occurred in Sweden an event of which the singularity attracted the attention of all Europe: Queen Christine abdicated the throne of Sweden in favor of her cousin: Charles-Gustavus, Prince of Zweibrucken. The politicians, whose spirits were filled only with self-interest and ambition, very much condemned the queen; the courtiers, who seek refinements everywhere, recounted that the aversion she had towards Charles-Gustavus, whom she was expected to marry, had pushed this princess into leaving the throne. The learned praised her too much because she had renounced grandor in favor of love of philosophy. If she had really been a philosopher, she would not have been sullied by the murder of Monaldeschi, and she would not have regretted, as she did at Rome, the grandor she had left behind. In the eyes of the sages, the conduct of this queen appeared nothing but bizarre. She does not merit either praise or blame for having left the throne. Such an action acquires no grandor except by the importance of the motives which cause it to come about, by the circumstances that accompany it, and by the magnanimity with which it is supported.
Scarcely had Charles-Gustavus ascended the throne, than he occupied himself with the means of distinguishing himself by arms. He lacked six years before the ceasefire that Gustavus-Adolphus had made with Poland would expire. His design was to bring Jean-Casimir, who in the year 1648 had been elected king in place of Ladislaus, to renounce the pretentions that the crown of Poland formed on that of Sweden, and to cede Livonia to him. Frederick-William, who was defiant towards Charles-Gustavus, subsequently fathomed out his plans. But in order to flatter the king, he terminated by his mediation the wrangles that the Swedish government of Stade had with the city of Bremen, relating to the liberties of that Hanseatic city.
The Swedes, who published that their armaments only related to Russia, demanded the Elector's ports of Pillau and Memel, as Gustavus-Adolphus had demanded of George-William's fortresses of Kuestrin and Spandau. The circumstances had much changed since that time; and the elector whom the Swedes addressed was a man very different from George-William. With hauteur, the Elector rejected the demands rashly made on him, adding that if the intention of the King of Sweden was definitely to attack Russia, he committed himself to furnish a body of eight thousand men for such a war, because the progress of the Muscovites in Poland made him apprehensive that they might approach his borders. This artful reply demonstrated to the Swedes that the Elector was neither timid nor gullible.
Nevertheless, he warned the Republic of Poland of the danger which faced it, and was requested to assist with his artillery, troops, and good counsel. This request was followed by an embassy, requesting his mediation in order to hasten an accommodation with Sweden; and by an additional request, pressing him to furnish subsidies to meet the expenses of the war. Knowing the tumultuousness of the deliberations of that republic, uncertain in its resolutions, light in its engagements, ready to make war without having prepared the means, exhausted by the rapine of great powers, and poorly in control of its troops, the Elector responded that he could not take responsibility for the misfortunes that he feared for it, nor sacrifice the welfare of his territories to save the Republic which repaid his services with ingratitude.
In order to assure the peace of his dominions on the eve of a war ready to be ignited, the Elector made a defensive alliance for eight years with the Dutch. He sought the friendship of Cromwell, that fortunate usurper who, under the title of protector of his country, exercised an absolute despotism. The Elector tried to befriend Louis 14th who, since the Peace of Westphalia, had become the arbitrator of Europe. The Elector similarly flattered the hauteur of Ferdinand 3rd, in order to engage him in his interests; but in reply, he only received those vain words with which the courtesy of seasoned ministers harshly refuse. Ferdinand 3rd increased his troops, and the Elector followed his example.
The Elector's suspicions as to the designs of Sweden did not take a long time to be confirmed. A body of Swedes, commanded by General Wittenberg, traversed the New Mark without making any request and marched towards the frontiers of Poland. Scarcely had Stenbock attacked this kingdom, than two palatinates of High Poland surrendered to him.
As all the war effort would be close to the frontiers of Prussia, the Elector marched there at the head of his troops, in order to be more within reach to take measures and to execute them promptly. At Marienburg, he concluded a defensive alliance with the States of Polish Prussia, which depended upon mutual assistance in terms of four thousand men promised by the allied parties and on the maintenance of Brandenburger garrisons in Marienburg, Graudenz, and several other towns.
At the time, the Swedes were not Poland's only enemies; the Tsar had penetrated as far as Lithuania since the previous year. This invasion had as a pretext the frivolous omission of several titles that the Polish chancellery had forgotten to give to the Tsar; and it was very strange that a nation, which perhaps did not know how to read, made war on its neighbors because of the grammatical trifle of the address of a letter.
The Swedes, however, profiting from the awkward situation of their enemies, made considerable progress; masters of Prussia, they established their quarters there, near to Koenigsberg. These ventures rendered the Elector's situation more difficult from one day to the next; it was reaching the moment when he could no long retain his neutrality without exposing Prussia to inevitable ruin. As the Swedes had made him advantageous propositions on several occasions, he attached himself to their fortune, and at Koenigsberg he concluded a treaty with that crown, by which he recognized that he was a vassal of Sweden, and he pledged them the homage of Ducal Prussia, on condition that the bishopric of Warmia be secularized in his favor. To fortify his party, Frederick-William entered an alliance with Louis 14th, who guaranteed his territories situated along the Rhine and the Weser.
At Marienburg, he changed his treaty with the Swedes into an offensive alliance. The King and the Elector then held a meeting in Poland, where they agreed on the plans for their campaign; and above all, the means of retrieving Warsaw from the hands of the Poles, who had just evicted the Swedish troops. The Elector then marched through Mazovia and joined the Swedish army at the confluence of the Bug and the Vistula; the allies crossed the Bug at the same time that the Polish army crossed the Vistula at Warsaw, in such a way that no obstacle separated them further.
The ministers of France: d'Avaugour and de Lombres, flattered themselves that they could reconcile the parties by means of their negotiations. They frequently crossed from one camp to the other for that purpose, but the Poles, conceited by their number, despising the allies, whose forces amounted to only sixteen thousand men, insolently rejected all the propositions made by the mediators.
The Polish army was entrenched in a camp. Its right extended towards a marsh; and the Vistula, which flowed in a transverse line from their back towards their left, covered this wing at the same time. Charles-Gustavus and Frederick-William marched towards them on 18th July 1656 in the early morning.
Leading the first column, the king crossed a small wood and pressed his right to the Vistula; but the terrain was so tangled that when deploying, he could present to the enemy a front of only twelve squadrons and three battalions. The Polish camp was strong on that side and difficult to attack, which obliged the king to remain in column, and the day passed in skirmishes and cannonades. The Elector, who commanded the left, left the wood that the king had crossed, on his right; and as night supervened, the army remained in this position without enjoying it and without leaving their weapons, until the arrival of the dawn.
The next day, the 29th, the Elector seized a hill which was towards his left, where he discovered, beyond the little wood, a field suitable for spreading out his troops. He marched his column by his left, deploying it in the field, and guarding his flank with six squadrons which it covered. The Tartars noticed this movement, and attacked the Elector from all sides. They were repulsed, however, and his wing was entirely formed in the field, over which the Tartars made a new attempt, in which they succeeded as badly as in the first, and retreated in confusion towards their camp.
Seeing that it was impossible to attack the enemy entrenchment on the side of the Vistula, the king prepared to change his disposition. The Polish infantry, which made as if to leave its entrenchment, constrained itself for a time; but several cannons, put as a battery opposite the openings of this entrenchment, made so great an effect that, whenever the Polish troops attempted to emerge, they were thrown into confusion and forced to abandon their venture. At the same time, changing his order of battle, Charles-Gustavus withdrew his troops by the wood that he had crossed in the evening, and proceeded to form up in the field, to the left of the troops that the Elector had already deployed.
The Polish army then left its entrenchment by the right and formed a superior front to that of the allies. All its cavalry had been deployed on its right, covering a village, garrisoned by infantry, which was flanked and defended by a battery placed on a hillock. The King of Sweden brought his left flank over their right flank. The Poles immediately set fire to the village, abandoned it, and mustered behind a village further back, protected by a marsh. The king pursued them and overcame their flank for the second time, which produced a new firing of a village on the part of the Poles, and a new retreat. In this dangerous situation, the Polish cavalry made a general effort, attacking the allied flank, front and rear, all the time. As all the troops were well deployed to receive them, the reserve repulsed those who came from behind. The troops which were in the flank, those who came from that side, and the main body, were put in disorder after several discharges, in such a way that they were repulsed on all sides. Night deprived the Swedes of a complete victory for the time being. They waited under arms on the battlefield for the day, when they could complete their triumph.
Early the next day, the King of Sweden decided, by the by, to change his order of battle. He formed his two lines of infantry and put his cavalry in the third, with the exception of the cuirassiers and the Brandenburger dragoons, whom the Elector put at the right of his troops, to await a suitable occasion to use them.
The enemy remained in possession of a wood situated opposite the [allied] left; an artillery brigade was detached, supported by five hundred horse. After several discharges of the cannons, the cavalry chased the enemy out of the wood and the allies occupied it with two hundred infantrymen. This operation was all the more necessary as long as the enemy remained masters of the wood; their cavalry was protected in a way that would have been difficult to undermine. The Elector then attacked the Polish cavalry, which was drawn up on an eminence, drove it into a marsh at the rear, and entirely dispersed it. The enemy infantry, abandoned by their cavalry, and having lost its cannons since the evening before, without awaiting the Swedes and the Brandenburgers, fled in total confusion; they hastily crossed the Vistula, in such great disorder that many drowned; and not believing themselves safe even beyond the river, they abandoned Warsaw, which surrendered the next day to the victors.
The Polish army lost six thousand men in these various battles; and the allies, tired by so much toil and worn out by lack of food for three days, found that they were not in a state to pursue the vanquished.
John-Casimir was present in person at the defeat of his troops; his wife, the queen, and several of the leading ladies of his kingdom had been spectators from the bridge over the Vistula and they served only to worsen the situation: the confusion and shame of a total rout.
After the victorious army had taken some rest, it made a march of six German miles in pursuit of the Poles; but the Elector left several troops under the orders of the King of Sweden, and returned to Prussia with the majority of his army, to pursue those Tartars who had made incursions. Having showed the extreme need that Charles-Gustavus had of his assistance, he used this situation with so much skill as to obtain the entire sovereignty of Prussia by the Treaty of Labiau; to Sweden was only reserved the eventual reversion of the Duchy. The Elector notified the Emperor of the victory of the battle of Warsaw. But Ferdinand 3rd, who still dreaded the Swedes and who saw in spite of himself the good relationship which reigned between them and Brandenburg and, what is more, envied the brilliant success of these two heroes, satisfied himself with replying that he pitied the Poles for having to deal with two such brave princes.
The Emperor, who was then at peace with all his neighbors, believed that his dignity required him to become involved in the troubles of Poland, either to defend that kingdom, or to abase the King of Sweden, or for his own advantage. He sent Hatzfeld, at the head of sixteen thousand men, to the assistance of that state. Denmark similarly married the interests of Poland, out of hatred for Sweden. This powerful league gave Gustavus a certain presage of the inconstancy of fortune. Not satisfied with assisting the Poles with his troops, Ferdinand 3rd wanted them to be delivered from a redoubtable enemy, and solicited Frederick-William in the most pressing terms to detach himself from the Swedes.
Pressed on all sides, the Elector resolved to prevent the laws of necessity. He consented with good grace to what he was not in a position to refuse and, foreseeing that the Emperor and the King of Denmark could constrain him to quit the Swedish side by invading his German dominions, he signed a peace with the Poles at Wehlau. That crown recognized the sovereignty of Prussia. It ceded the bailiwicks of Lauenbourg and B�tow in compensation for the bishopric of Warmia. The city of Elbing was mortgaged to him for a sum of money; and the succession of Prussia was extended to his cousins, the margraves of Franconia. Poland and Brandenburg promised reciprocal assistance in terms of two thousand men. The Elector evacuated all the towns belonging to that state where he had garrisons; and this important treaty was confirmed at Braunsberg.
As the former relations that the Elector had had with Sweden and France were broken by the peace made with the Poles, he found it appropriate to make up for it by new relations and made an alliance with the Emperor and the King of Denmark. By this treaty, Ferdinand 3rd engaged to furnish six thousand men; and Frederick-William, a contingent of three thousand five hundred, when the contracting parties should have need. The Archduke Leopold who, in the year 1653, despite the Golden Bull and against the intention of the majority of the princes of the Empire, his father had had elected King of the Romans, then filled the Imperial throne, which had become vacant upon the death of the Emperor Ferdinand 3rd.
The King of Sweden, however, irritated that the Emperor and the King of Denmark had aborted at birth the plans that he had for Poland, took revenge on Zeeland, which he invaded, and forced the King of Denmark to sign a peace at Roskilde. Scarcely was this peace concluded than the King of Denmark broke it; and once he was free to do so, destroyed that which he had been forced to sign. Although he was the aggressor, Frederick 3rd of Denmark solicited the assistance of the Emperor and the Elector against Sweden, and obtained it.
Ready to help the King of Denmark, Frederick-William appointed the Prince of Anhalt governor of his dominions during his absence. He left Berlin at the head of his cavalry and three thousand Imperial cuirassiers; he forced the Swedes who were in Holstein to retreat beyond the Eider; and put Brandenburger and Imperial garrisons at Gottorp. Having hunted the Swedes from the island of Aland, he put his troops in winter quarters in Jutland.
The following year, he opened the campaign by taking Friedrichsodde and the island of Fionie but fell short in his attempt on the island of Fuynen because eight Swedish warships dispersed the barques carrying his troops, so that they were unable to disembark.
In order to further divide the Swedish forces, de Souches entered Western Pomerania with the Imperial troops and two thousand Brandenburgers. He and Starhemberg having taken several small towns and the island of Wollin, laid siege to Stettin. Wuertz, who commanded Stettin, put up a fine defense. The news of this expedition arrived in Denmark, where Wrangel commanded the Swedes; he flew to the aid of Pomerania, disembarked at Stralsund, surprised two hundred Brandenburgers on the island of Usedom, and threw sixteen hundred men to the aid of Stettin. Wuertz did not leave this assistance to languish in idleness; he made a furious sortie, chased the Imperial troops from their approaches, nailed their cannons, brought terror into their camp, and constrained them to raise the siege, which had already lasted forty-six days.
The war approached Brandenburg again, since Wrangel had marched into Pomerania, causing the Elector to leave Jutland. He followed Wrangel; he took Warnemunde and Tribbes�es; he fought in person a detachment of three hundred horse near Stralsund; and finished his campaign by taking Demmin.
While the war was heated in Holstein and Pomerania, the Swedes had evicted the Poles from the Great and the Little Werder, and the city of Marienburg in Royal Prussia. They were hunted out the following year by the Imperial troops and the Poles; and Polentz, the Elector's general, invaded Courland, where he took several towns.
For the greatest clarification of these military facts, it is necessary to add that the majority of the towns which defended a siege at that time would not have resisted twenty-four hours if attacked in the manner used at present, unless they were supported by an entire army.
Charles-Gustavus died in his prime, amidst the trouble and turbulence into which he had plunged the North. The minority of his son Charles 11th, aged five years, moderated the bellicose instinct of the Swedes, who were accustomed to be led by the example of their masters. King John-Casimir of Poland, had abdicated almost at the same time and the Poles had elected Michel Korybut in his place. After the death of the King of Sweden and the abdication of the Polish king, animosity ceased between the parties.
Yearning for peace, the belligerent parties only asked for their security; and as they were all in the same mind, they agreed to open meetings in the abbey of Oliva near to Danzig. Since ambition was not a factor in these negotiations, they soon reached a happy conclusion. The Elector was guaranteed the Treaty of Braunsberg, and his sovereignty over Prussia was recognized. The other powers agreed between them to re-establish the order of their possessions on their pre-war footing.
The States of Prussia accepted the Treaty of Braunsberg with difficulty, claiming that Poland had no right to dispose of their independence. A gentleman, called Rode, more seditious than the others, was arrested; and after the leaders of the revolt were pacified, the Elector in person received the homage of the Prussians at Koenigsberg.
The peace which reigned throughout Europe allowed the Elector to turn all his attention to the welfare of his people. The defender of his dominions in times of war, he had no less noble ambition to serve as their father in peacetime. He comforted families ruined by the enemies; he rebuilt city walls which had been destroyed; wasteland became cultivated fields; forests changed to villages; and colonies of husbandmen fed their flocks in places that the ravages of the war had made a refuge for wild beasts. The rural economy, an industry so despised but so useful, was encouraged by his care. Several new developments were seen each day. They succeeded in forming the course of an artificial river which, joining the Spree to the Oder, facilitated the commerce of his territories and shortened the transport of goods both for the Baltic and for the Ocean. Frederick-William was even greater by virtue of his generous character and his devotion to the public good than by virtue of his military virtues and careful statesmanship, which made him do everything in the way he needed for success, and at the time when it needed to be done. Gallantry makes great heroes; people make good princes.
During this peace, the Elector eventually received the homage of the archbishopric of Magdeburg, and put garrisons in that capital. Similarly, he joined the lordship of Regenstein, which was a fief of the principality of Halberstadt, to his possessions, and upheld his rights against the pretentions of the dukes of Brunswick.
After reporting the Elector's care for the internal government [of his state], it is necessary to note in a few words the part he had in European affairs generally. When the Turks attacked Hungary, he sent assistance to the Emperor in the form of two thousand men, under the command of the Duke of Holstein. He similarly assisted King Michel Korybut of Poland, in the war that he had to maintain against the infidels. It was also by his intervention that the sons of the Duke of Luneburg came to an agreement concerning their paternal inheritance; and he adjusted with the Duke of Neuburg all the differences which remained to be reconciled concerning the succession of Cleves. The Swedes made a defensive alliance with him and he concluded a quadruple alliance at The Hague, with the King of Denmark, the Republic of Holland, and the Duke of Brunswick, to which the Emperor acceded.
These alliances, whose object was to guarantee the peace of Germany, lost some of their force by virtue of their number; they marked too much the superiority of France and the feebleness of the Empire, whose so many united States could scarcely oppose the power of a single monarch.
One soon saw to what extent the precautions of the princes of the Empire were vain. Louis 14th, who was starting to reign independently, burned with impatience to mark his reign with some actions worthy of focusing on himself the gaze of Europe. He marched at the head of his army to attack Spanish Flanders. A dowry which had not been paid to Maria-Theresa furnished France with the subject of a declaration. Although the reasons did not appear as valid at Madrid as they did in Paris, Louis 14th believed that he was proceeding according to rule by invading the Spanish Netherlands, then defended by only a few troops.
Careful to prevent the alliances which were forming for the support of Spain, France believed that it would be suitable to preserve the friendship of the Elector, who promised not to become embroiled in a war that was effectively irrelevant to him.
Louis 14th seized part of Spanish Flanders almost without resistance. The following winter, he took the Franche-Comte, thanks to the skill of the Prince de Conde who, envious of the fine campaign made by Turenne in Flanders, wanted to surpass it by his current one. In such pressing need, the Spanish had recourse to the Dutch, whom they had previously oppressed and despised; and the Republic protected them on this occasion against the adventures of the King of France. De Witt, Pensionary of Holland, Sir William Temple, minister of England, and Dohna, ambassador of Sweden, resolved to arrest the progress of Louis 14th. Soon afterwards, Sweden, Holland, and England concluded an alliance at The Hague. Louis 14th dissipated this storm by proposing peace with the Spanish, which was in fact concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle. The conditions meant that the king kept those areas of Flanders that he had conquered, and that he transferred the Franche-Comte to the Spanish. The Dutch very much wanted the king to give up Flanders; but the various means that they took in order to bring him to do so made this desire all the more useless. He was irritated by the Dutch and considered revenge; Flanders became all the more necessary. The designs of Louis 14th on the United Provinces were not so hidden that several matters did not leak out. Those who are the least interested in a matter are often the most clear-sighted. Frederick-William foresaw that the peace France had made with Spain could become fatal to the Dutch; he tried to divert the storm which was menacing the Republic. Very far from adopting peaceful sentiments, Louis 14th attempted to drag the Elector himself into the war that he wanted to make against the Dutch. He charged the Prince of Fuerstenberg with this commission, who went to Berlin and found with astonishment a sovereign who preferred feelings of friendship and gratitude to the bait of interest and the appeasement of ambition.
A league soon formed for the support of the United Provinces. The electors of Brandenburg and Cologne, the Bishop of Munster and the Duke of Neuburg signed a treaty at Bielefeld; but scarcely had this engagement been made, than the Elector of Cologne and the Duke of Neuburg crossed to the opposite side.
Holland, attacked by France in 1672, harassed at the same time by the Elector of Cologne and the Bishop of Munster, was in a situation in which they did not dare to wait for the assistance and generosity of its allies. The unfortunate undergo a certain experience relating to the human heart; the decline of their fortune is like a thermometer which indicates at the same time the cooling of their friendships. Their provinces were conquered by Louis 14th; their troops were intimidated and fugitives; and the city of Amsterdam was on the point of being taken. In such a state, how did they dare to hope that a prince would have a magnanimous enough soul to confront the same hazards that the Republic feared for itself, and to defend it against the most powerful and the most fortunate monarch in Europe in the triumphant course of his prosperity? However such a defender was to be found; and Frederick-William had a great enough soul to conclude an alliance with the Republic, when all Europe expected to see it submerged by the waters, over which it had reigned so absolutely. He committed himself to furnish a body of twenty thousand men, of whom half were to be in the pay of the Republic; the Elector and the Dutch also promised not to make a separate peace with their enemies. A short time afterwards, the Emperor Leopold acceded to this alliance.
However, the rapid success of Louis 14th had caused a change in the form of government in Holland. Rendered furious by the public calamity and the intrigues of the Prince of Orange, the people accused the Pensionary of all their misfortunes and took vengeance on the de Witt brothers with incredible cruelty, for all the evils that Holland had had to suffer. With great tumult, William of Orange was elected Stadhouder by the people. This prince, aged nineteen years, became the most indefatigable enemy that the ambition of Louis 14th had had to confront.
The Elector, a relative of the new Stadhouder, hastened to help him. Scarcely had he assembled his troops than he advanced to Halberstadt, where Montecuculi joined him with ten thousand Imperial troops. He immediately continued his march towards Westphalia. At the sound of his approach, Turenne quit Holland, took several towns in Cleves, and went to meet him at the head of thirty thousand Frenchmen. The city of Groningen, evacuated by the Bishop of Munster, and the siege of Maastricht raised by the French, were the sole fruits of this diversion. The Elector wanted to fight Turenne and marched straight away to the assistance of the Dutch; but Montecuculi, who had secret orders not to take offensive action, would not agree. He gave all sorts of poor reasons to dissuade the Elector who, not being powerful enough to act with his own forces, was forced to conform with the intentions of the Emperor. He therefore marched past Frankfort-am-Main, advising the Prince of Orange of his reasons for so doing. Nevertheless, this march obliged Turenne to re-cross the Rhine at Andernach, and relieved the Dutch of thirty thousand enemies.
Turenne would have followed, had it not depended on the Elector; he had prepared to cross the Rhine at Nierstein but Montecuculi was highly opposed to this, and declared that the Imperial troops would not cross the river. The campaign thus drained away fruitlessly, and the Elector took up winter quarters in Westphalia.
The French profited by this inaction: Turenne crossed the Rhine at Wesel, seized the Duchies of Cleves and the Mark, and advanced towards the Weser; the Bishop of Munster attempted unsuccessfully to take Bielefeld. The Elector was advised to put his affairs to the decision of a battle. The Prince of Anhalt was of this opinion, which he supported with good reasons, maintaining that if Turenne was beaten he would be obliged to re-cross the Rhine; and that, if he was victorious he would not be able to pursue the vanquished troops, because he would be too distant from the frontiers of France. The Elector was sufficiently inclined toward this advice. It was a Sunday; and the ministers, as timid concerning the French as they were envious of the reputation of the Prince of Anhalt, encouraged the preacher to extend his discourse: the sermon lasted near to three hours, which gave them the time to arrange things in a way that the plan would fail. The Emperor's troops refused to act, and the Elector believed that he was not strong enough to measure himself alone against France without the assistance of his allies.
Unable to defeat Turenne by arms, the Elector defeated him in this campaign by generosity. A Frenchman named Villeneuve, who was in Turenne's camp, offered the Elector to assassinate his general. Frederick-William had a horror of this crime and warned Turenne to beware of the traitor, adding that he took the opportunity with pleasure to state that the esteem that he had for [Turenne's] merit was not affected by the evil that the French had made his territories suffer.
The Dutch owed the subsidies that they were obliged to pay; the Emperor and Spain had not taken further part against France; and all the provinces that the Elector possessed in Westphalia were lost. Many reasons, therefore, added to his weakness, brought Frederick-William to make an accommodation with France. The peace was concluded at Vossem and Louis 14th ratified it in his camp before Maastricht. All the Elector's territories were returned, with the exception of the towns of Rees and Wesel, which the French kept until a peace with Holland was concluded. The Elector promised to assist the Dutch no longer, and reserved the right to defend the Empire in case it was attacked. The remainder of these articles of peace concerned compensation that Louis 14th promised to pay the Elector for the damage that the French troops had done. All the efforts that he made to influence the King of France to include the Dutch in this peace were useless; he had sacrificed himself to save this unfortunate Republic. If so many princes more powerful than he would have imitated his generosity, even partly, Holland would have been saved earlier, and the Elector would not have seen the necessity bend under the power of the most formidable king in Europe.
Louis 14th had struck down the Dutch, had obliged their allies to abandon them, and had kept the two houses of Austria inactive. The erection in front of the gate of St. Denis, however, of a triumphal arch in respect the conquest of Holland was not achieved until that conquest was lost. The French had occupied too much territory, which considerably weakened their armies; they had neglected to seize Amsterdam, the soul of that State. The Dutch opened their locks to save themselves; Turenne could not prevent the meeting of the Prince of Orange and Montecuculi. All these things joined together caused the French to lose their advantage, and constrained them to evacuate Holland. In order to regain superiority from another side, Louis 14th seized the Franche-Comte. Turenne entered the Palatinate and his troops committed grave excesses there. The Elector Palatine, who had seen from his castle several villages burning, complained to the Diet; and the Emperor, who had tranquilly seen Holland subjugated, abandoned his lethargy for the security of the Empire. He broke with the King of France; and this was perhaps the only war that the house of Austria had chanced for the security and the defense of Germany.
Leopold joined with Spain and Holland, and Frederick-William engaged to lead sixteen thousand men to the assistance of the Empire. The Dutch and the Spanish promised him partial assistance with the maintenance of his troops. Because Louis 14th had attacked the Empire, the resolve that the Elector made to help the Emperor on this occasion in no way contradicted the agreement with France that had subsisted since the peace of Vossem.
The beginning of this campaign was unfortunate for the allies. The Prince of Orange had just been beaten at Seneffe by the Prince of Conde. Turenne, who had crossed the Rhine at Philippsburg, won a victory over Caprara, fought Duke Charles 4th of Lorraine at Sinzheim, and marched from there to Holzheim, where he defeated Bournonville, who commanded a large body of Imperial troops.
The Elector crossed the Rhine at Strasbourg and joined Bournonville less than a day after the latter's defeat. He found the generals who commanded the army divided and arguing one against the other and more occupied in damaging each other than in defeating the enemies.
Since the conjunction with Brandenburg, the Imperial army was more than fifty thousand men strong. Seeking glory and wanting to fight, the Elector pressed Bournonville to consent, but in vain. The army took the camp of Kochersberg; the Brandenburgers seized the little castle of Wasselnheim; and Turenne, who meditated a greater coup, re-crossed the Sarre and retreated into Lorraine.
Thus was this campaign fruitlessly lost, where the troops of the Empire, failing to profit from their superiority, left their enemies the time and the means to carry out the most dangerous blows against them. The Elector established his quarters from Colmar until Masmunster and the Imperial troops blockaded Brisach.
Turenne was always strongest opposite an army where discord reigned. He received a reinforcement of ten thousand men from the army of Flanders; after retreating like Fabius, he advanced like Hannibal.
The Elector had foreseen what would happen, and had advised Bournonville on various occasions to close up his scattered quarters. Bournonville was confident; the retreat of the French lulled him into a security which he could not be induced to abandon; he would never consent to bring his quarters closer together. Nevertheless, Turenne crossed the defiles of Thann and Belfort, penetrated the Imperial quarters, took two of them, took a regiment of the Brandenburger dragoons prisoner, defeated Bournonville in Sundgau, near Muehlhausen, and pursued this general, who joined the Elector in haste, who had assembled his troops at Colmar. Turenne arrived; he presented his front line opposite the front of the camp, which was impregnable, and turned it with the second. The Elector, posted in cramped terrain, his flank confronted by Turenne, and frustrated by Bournonville, decamped during the night and re-crossed the Rhine at Strasbourg. The Imperial troops raised the siege of Brisach and the French became the masters of Alsace. Frederick-William made his quarters in Franconia with his Brandenburgers.
The Elector's lack of success in this campaign should not surprise those who know the principles according to which the court at Vienna was conducted. The Emperor's ministers were most inferior to those of the King of France, and Bournonville could not be compared with Turenne. Mere politicians, the ministers at Vienna drew up, in the privacy of their cabinet, plans of campaign which were by no means military, and pretended to lead the generals by the reins, in a career where one must fly in order to fulfill it.
At Versailles, those ministers who knew that the detail of military expeditions was not their strength, held general ideas for plans of campaign, and believed the Condés and the Turennes were great enough men to relate to them as to the manner in which they were to be executed. Almost sovereigns in their armies, the French generals were left to the free drive of their genius; they profited from an opportunity when it was presented to them, whereas their enemies often lost, by sending couriers to ask the Emperor for permission to undertake things which were no long feasible on their return.
Although the Emperor nominally honored the Elector in his armies, he placed his confidence only in his own generals. It therefore came about that Montecuculi caused the lack of planning for the campaign of 1672, and that Bournonville was the cause of the misfortunes that were experienced in Alsace. The council of Vienna, which was never in these places, intimidated by the loss of the battles of Seneffe, Sinzheim, and Holzheim, thought that Germany would be lost if they risked a fourth. Added to this was the poor intelligence of the Emperor's generals; and these reasons together ensured that Frederick-William never appeared as admirable at the head of the Imperial troops as at the head of his own troops.
While Turenne secured the borders of France by his skill, the council of Louis 14th worked to dispose of a dangerous enemy; and, in order to separate Frederick-William from the Imperial troops, France created a diversion which recalled him to his own States.
Although Sweden had made a defensive alliance with the Elector in 1673, France found a way to break it; and Wrangel entered the Mark of Brandenburg at the head of a Swedish army. The Prince of Anhalt, who was governor, complained bitterly at this invasion. Wrangel satisfied himself by replying that the Swedes would withdraw their troops once the Elector made peace with France. The Prince of Anhalt informed the Elector of the desolation of his dominions and of the pillaging committed by the Swedes; and as he had too few troops to present before an army, the Elector agreed that the prince withdraw to Berlin to await his arrival.
While the Brandenburger troops were recuperating in the winter quarters of Franconia after the strain of the Alsace campaign, the peasants of the Mark, in despair at their humiliation by the Swedes, assembled and gained several advantages over their enemies. They formed companies and their flags bore the Elector's name, with the legend:
"For prince and for country,
We would sacrifice our life."
Wrangel, who nevertheless held a sort of order among the Swedes, fell sick; and his inactivity increased the commotions and pillages. The churches were not spared and the greed of the soldiers pushed them to the greatest cruelties.
The Mark, which sighed for a liberator, did not wait for long. Prepared to avenge the bad faith of the Swedes, Frederick-William left his quarters in Franconia and arrived at Magdeburg on 11th June. He had the doors of this fortress closed immediately after his arrival and employed all possible precautions to conceal his approach from his new enemies. The army crossed the Elbe towards the evening and, by roundabout ways, arrived the following night at the gates of Rathenow. He gave notice of his arrival to the Baron of Briest, who was in the city, and devised with him in secret the means of surprising the Swedes.
Briest acquitted himself skillfully of his commission. He gave a great supper to the officers of Wangelin' s regiment, who were garrisoned in Rathenow. The Swedes delivered themselves without control to the charms of drink and, while they slept off their wine, the Elector crossed the Havel on various boats of the infantry detachments, to assail the city from all sides. General Derfflinger, claiming to be the commander of a party of Swedes pursued by Brandenburgers, was the first to enter Rathenow. He had the guards' throats slit, and at the same time all the gates were forced; the cavalry cleaned up the streets, and the Swedish officers had difficulty on their awakening to persuade themselves that they were prisoners of a prince whom they believed still with his troops in the depths of Franconia. If at that time the posts had been established as at present, such a surprise would have been almost impossible; but it is the distinctiveness of great men to profit from the least advantage.
The Elector, who understood the value of opportunities in war, did not wait for all his infantry to join him at Rathenow. He marched with his cavalry straight to Nauen, in order to separate the body of the Swedes near Brandenburg from that near Havelberg. Whatever his haste in this decisive situation, he could not prevent the Swedes, who had left Brandenburg at the rumor of his approach, from retiring by Nauen an hour before he arrived. He followed them with vigor and learned from the evidence of prisoners and deserters that their body of troops was marching to Fehrbellin, where they were to meet with that of Havelberg.
The army of Brandenburg consisted of five thousand, six hundred horse; it had no infantry, and only twelve cannons with it. The Swedes numbered ten regiments of infantry and eight hundred dragoons in their camp. Despite the inequality of the numbers and the difference in their arms, the Elector did not hesitate to approach the enemy, in order to give battle.
On 18th June, he marched towards the Swedes; he entrusted sixteen hundred horse of his vanguard to the Prince of Homburg with the order not to engage in battle, but to reconnoiter. The prince left and, having traversed a wood, he saw the Swedish troops camped between the villages of Hakenberg and Tarmow, with a marsh behind them, the bridge of Fehrbellin beyond their right, and an open plain before their front. He pressed the pickets, pursued them; and then drove them, fighting, as far as their main body. The troops left their camp at the same time and lined up for battle. Full of boiling courage, the Prince of Homburg abandoned himself to his exuberance and engaged in combat which would have had a fatal end, had not the Elector, warned of his danger, raced to his assistance.
Frederick-William, whose sight was admirable and activity astounding, made his deployment in an instant. He profited by a mound, on which to place his battery, and had several discharges fired at the enemy. The Swedish infantry was shaken by it; and when he saw that it began to drift, he swooped down with all his cavalry on the enemy's right, crushed and broke it. The regiments of Swedish Guards and of Ostrogotha were entirely cut in pieces; the rout of the right dragged those of the left; the Swedes threw themselves into the marsh, where they were killed by the peasants; and those who escaped fled by Fehrbellin, where they broke the bridge behind them.
It is worthy of the majesty of history to recount the fine action of a squire of the Elector in this battle. The Elector rode a white horse. Froben, his squire, noticed that the Swedes were shooting more at this horse, which was distinguished by its color, than at the others. He begged his master to exchange it for his own, on the pretext that that of the Elector was restive. Scarcely was this faithful domestic mounted for a few moments, than he was killed, thus saving the Elector's life by his death.
The Elector, who had no infantry, could neither force the bridge of Fehrbellin nor pursue the enemy in their flight. He satisfied himself by establishing his camp on the battlefield where he had acquired so much glory. He forgave the Prince of Homburg for having so lightly exposed the destiny of the entire State, saying: "If I judged you according to the strictness of military law, you would deserve to lose your life; but it would not please God that I tarnish the brilliance of such a happy day by spilling the blood of a prince who was one of the principal instruments of my victory."
The Swedes lost, on that equally famous and decisive day, two standards, eight flags, eight cannons, three thousand men, and great number of officers.
Derfflinger arrived with the infantry, pursued the Swedes the next day, took many prisoners, and retrieved, with their baggage, part of the booty that they had taken in the Mark of Brandenburg. The Swedish army, which had dissolved and was reduced to four thousand combatants, retreated by Ruppin and Wittstock into the Duchy of Mecklenburg.
Few captains could have prided themselves for having executed a campaign similar to that of Fehrbellin. The Elector formed a plan as great as it was bold and executed it with astounding rapidity. He cleared away a quarter of the Swedes when Europe believed that he was still in Franconia. He flew to the plains of Fehrbellin, where the enemy were assembled; he restored a battle, engaged with more courage than prudence; and, with an inferior body of cavalry, which was harassed by the fatigue of a long march, he succeeded in defeating a sizeable and respectable infantry unit which had, by its valor, subjugated the Empire and Poland. With the boldness of his leadership, he left to be judged what he would have done, had he been able to act in Alsace according to his will. As brilliant as it was valorous, this expedition merits that the Veni, vidi, vici, of Caesar be applied to him. He was praised by his enemies, blessed by his subjects; and from that famous day, posterity dates the subsequent elevation of the house of Brandenburg.
Beaten by the Elector, the Swedes were declared enemies of the Empire for having attacked one of its members; had they been assisted by fortune, perhaps they would have found some allies.
Strengthened by the assistance of the Imperial forces and the Danes, the Elector attacked the Swedes in all their provinces in turn. He entered Pomerania and made himself master of the three principal crossings of the Peene. The Brandenburgers took the city of Wolgast and the island of Wollin; and Wismar only surrendered to the Danes after the Prince of Homburg had joined them with a reinforcement of the Elector's troops.
The interests, which equally bound the King of Denmark and the Great Elector in the war that they made on the Swedes, were tightened more closely by an alliance concluded at the beginning of the year 1676.
Inconvenienced by the proximity of the Brandenburger troops, the strong Swedish garrison at Stralsund attempted to evict them from the island of Wollin, during the winter. Mardefeld crossed with a Swedish detachment and besieged the electoral troops, who were defending the capital. The vigilance of Marshal Derfflinger made them pay dearly enough for their venture. He reassembled some of his units, crossed to the island of Wollin, struck at Mardefeld, and would have entirely defeated him, had the Swedes not taken to their vessels in haste and escaped to Stralsund.
At the beginning of the campaign, the Baltic was covered by two powerful fleets, which blockaded the Swedes in their ports and prevented them from sending assistance to Pomerania. One was a fleet that the Dutch sent to the assistance of the allies, commanded by Admiral Tromp, the greatest sailor of his century, and the other was that of the King of Denmark, under the orders of admiral Juel, who scarcely ceded his reputation to the former. Even the Brandenburger privateers distinguished themselves in this campaign and took some prizes from the Swedes.
That nation, foreseeing that it would be impossible to resist the number of enemies that it had managed to attract, ventured several proposals for peace, in order to detach the Elector from his allies and perhaps even to commit him to them; that is how Sweden went about it.
Wangelin, who had been taken prisoner at Rathenow, made several overtures, promised great advantage, and used all the seductions of a politician, in order to commit the Elector to a new reconciliation with Sweden. Frederick-William, however, far from entering into negotiations, threw out, far from himself, the propositions which also conflicted with his honor. He put himself at the head of his troops and took Anclam, despite the opposition put up there by General Koenigsmarck. He then turned his victorious army towards Stettin, which he was satisfied with blockading, the season being too advanced to besiege it in the trenches.
The next campaign was opened at sea by a naval battle, in which the Swedish fleet was defeated by that of the Danes. Charles 11th, who had only been a pupil until then, reached his majority and began to appear as king. He put himself at the head of his army and, at his first attempt, won the famous battle of Lund in Scania, where Christian 5th was put to flight, leaving six thousand dead on the field.
The fortune of the Swedes, which prevailed against the King of Denmark, became impotent against the Elector; the campaign in Pomerania was one of the most unfortunate for the Swedes.
The Elector, who had blockaded Stettin during the winter, opened the trenches on 6th June before this place. The Brandenburgers attacked the city from the left bank of the Oder; and the Lueneburgers, who had joined the Elector, made their approach from the right bank. The siege lasted six months with open trenches.
The fortifications of Stettin consisted of earthworks, surrounded by a ditch and defended by a poor counterscarp; a few redoubts were its only outworks. According to current methods used to besiege a place, this ramshackle arrangement would have been incapable of resisting for long. Accustomed to wars of campaign, however, the Elector's troops had no experience of sieges. They were excellent by way of assistance, but they had few large cannons, few mortars with them, and above all, they lacked skilful engineers.
Stettin capitulated on 14th December. The garrison had been reduced to three hundred men, and the accounts of the time assure us that the besiegers lost ten thousand. It is clear, however, that this number is exaggerated, such authors believing that a siege only achieved fame in proportion to the people it cost, even if they themselves were misled by false information. The greatest fortresses, built with casemates and mined, when besieged by great armies, do not cost as dearly to princes who take them, than this poor entrenchment cost the Brandenburgers, according to this author. Having taken the city, the Lueneburgers retired to their country.
The brilliant advantages that the Elector had gained over his enemies did not make the favorable impression on the Imperial court that one would have expected. The Emperor wanted feeble vassals and unimportant subjects, and no rich princes or powerful electors. As his statesmanship tended towards despotism, he understood how important it was to hold princes in a state of mediocrity and impotence. Among his councilors, a certain Hocherus even had the impudence to say that they viewed with discomfort at Vienna that a new King of the Vandals was becoming great on the shores of the Baltic. Either he had to suffer in silence, or he needed the means to prevent it.
While the Elector's military expeditions only displayed a series of prosperity and triumph, it was Louis 14th who laid down the law in Europe, and he prescribed the conditions of peace. By the treaty of that year, France remained in possession of the Franche-Comte, which was permanently annexed to it; a part of Spanish Flanders; and the fortress of Freiburg. After this peace had been signed at Nijmegen, the Prince of Orange attempted in vain to disrupt it, causing the unnecessary battle of St. Denis, where the Duke of Luxemburg triumphed, despite the trickery and bad faith of his adversary. In making this peace, the Dutch had thought of themselves and not of their allies. Frederick-William reproached their ingratitude, but the matter was already without remedy.
France proposed that the Elector should return to the Swedes the territories that he had conquered from them, and that he should indemnify them for the expenses of the war. It would have been difficult if Louis 14th had suggested such humiliating conditions to a prince brought down by his defeats. The Elector was unwilling to consider them at all. His wishes were more elevated, and he hoped to retain by treaty that which he had acquired in battle. He gained more by negotiation at the Peace of Westphalia than he gained throughout his life by arms and by his numerous victories.
The war continued in Pomerania. On the island of Rugen, the Swedes captured two detachments, one Danish, the other Brandenburger, each six hundred men strong, and the King of Denmark lost Christiania and the island of Blechingen.
The Elector's fortune, or rather his skill, not being subject to any caprice, appeared in this war to be equally stable. He received a reinforcement of four thousand Lueneburgers, with which, and with the aid of Danish vessels, he landed on the island of Rugen, chased the Swedes away from there, and took Fahrschanze. He immediately seized the island of Bornholm, and crossed to Stralsund, where he bombarded the city so furiously that it surrendered after two days. He terminated this fine campaign by taking Greifswald.
It seemed that fortune was pleased to furnish opportunities for the Elector to display his great talents. Scarcely had he finished this campaign, than he learned that General Horn had come from Livonia and inundated Prussia with sixteen thousand Swedes. He received this news without astonishment, and remedied the situation without any problem. Fertile with expedients, his spirit furnished him with a mass of plans, of which it only remained to him to make a choice and apply it. He thought and executed in the same moment. General Goertzke was detached with three thousand men; he arrived safely at Koenigsberg, where he joined Hohendorff, and remained inactive until the Elector's arrival.
In order to strengthen his side, Frederick-William made a defensive alliance with those same Dutch who had abandoned him with so much cowardice. He excused them from paying him arrears of subsidies, ceded them the fortress of Schenk; and in recompense received only a worthless guarantee; and those ungrateful republicans refused to honor even that.
Meanwhile, the Swedes advanced and made progress in Prussia. While passing through the suburbs of Memel, they had burned them, and were holding Tilsit and Insterburg; their troops were spreading out, and parties of them were overrunning the entire country.
The Elector soon repaid these losses by his prodigious haste. On 10th January he left Berlin at the head of nine thousand men, and met with those whom Derfflinger had taken ahead. He crossed the Vistula on the 15th, preceded by the terror of his name, which had become fearsome to the Swedes. Horn was confused at his approach; he lost hope of resisting the victor of Fehrbellin; he retreated and his troops became discouraged. Goertzke profited from this trouble: followed him, harassed him, delayed him; and the onset of disorder lost the Swedes eight thousand men. A great number of peasants who had joined Goertzke's men threw themselves on the stragglers of the Swedish army and took them prisoner or massacred them.
The Elector, who had not wasted his time in idleness, appeared on the banks of the Frisches Haff. He had prepared sledges, on which he put all his infantry and his troops in the order in which they would have to fight. For their part, the cavalry followed the Elector who, by this strange and novel fashion, made seven German miles in a day. It was a surprise to see an army race on sledges over the continuous ice of a gulf which, two month previously, had been full of vessels from all over the world, attracted there by Prussia's commerce. The march of the Elector and his army resembled a spectacle of a gallant and superb carnival. The Electress and all her court were with him on a sledge; and wherever he passed, the Elector was received as the liberator of the country.
Having arrived at Labiau, he detached General Treffenfeldt with five thousand horse, to stop the Swedes until he had sufficient time to join them. On the same day, he made a considerable march over the gulf of Courland, and on 19th January arrived three miles from Tilsit with his infantry, where the Swedes were quartered. The same day, he learned that Treffenfeldt had beaten two enemy regiments near Splitter and had taken twenty-eight flags and standards, two pairs of drums and seven hundred baggage-wagons.
Beaten by Treffenfeldt, harassed by Goertzke, and intimidated by the Elector's proximity, the Swedes abandoned Tilsit and retreated near to Courland. Goertzke reached their rear-guard, fourteen hundred men strong, between Schulzenkrug and Coadjuthen, and defeated it altogether. He returned from one side and Treffenfeldt from the other, both bearing trophies, bringing back the booty the enemy had taken, and leading with them a great number of prisoners. The Swedish retreat resembled a rout; of the sixteen thousand who set out, scarcely three thousand returned to Livonia. They had entered Prussia like Romans; they left like Tartars.
Thus ended this expedition, unique of its kind, in which the Elector's genius was displayed entirely. Neither the rigors of the season in that savage climate, nor the length of the route from the Oder up to the border of Livonia, nor fatigue, nor the number of the enemy, could stop him in the end. This campaign, so well planned, so well executed, was of value to the Elector only for his reputation. That is the reward of heroes; but princes are not always satisfied by it.
The enemies of Frederick-William had drawn him from Alsace to the Mark, and from Pomerania to Prussia. Scarcely had he expelled the Swedes than the cries of his subjects announced that thirty thousand Frenchmen under the orders of General Calvo had entered the Duchy of Cleves.
Louis 14th insisted on the entire restoration of the Swedes, and nothing could deflect him from this stipulation. Colbert rejected with hauteur every proposition the Elector's ministers made. The sides had become too unequal; the Elector of Brandenburg and the King of Denmark, who remained the sole champions in the lists, could not win a full struggle against Charles 11th and Louis 14th together. Despite the Elector's repugnance at desisting from his conquests, he made a cease-fire with the French for fifteen days and returned the cities of W�sel and Lippstadt until the full conclusion of a peace.
This term having run out without any agreement, Cr�qui entered the principality of Minden with ten thousand men. He was joined there by the Lueneburgers; and these troops jointly enclosed, between them and the Weser, a Brandenburger corps commanded by General Spar. This was the same regiment of dragoons taken prisoner in Alsace, which was now taken near Minden for the second time. Subsequently, the Elector abolished it altogether.
Abandoned by the Emperor, and receiving only refusals on the part of the Dutch, who were far from fulfilling their guarantee, Frederick-William eventually resolved to make a compromise. He sent the Baron of Meinders to the French court at St. Germain-in-Laye, where the following conditions were agreed with much difficulty: that the Treaty of Westphalia would serve as the basis of this peace; and that the Elector would have the ownership of all the customs dues of the ports of Further Pomerania, with the cities of Cammin, Garz, Greifenberg, and Wildenbruch. He consented on his side to return to the Swedes the possession of all the territory he had conquered from them, and [undertook] that he would not assist the King of Denmark, in return for which, France evacuated his provinces in Westphalia, and paid him three hundred thousand ducats as an indemnity for the damage done by Cr�qui's troops in his states.
The peace was thus concluded and ratified and put into execution without a single incident to suspend its realization. The King of Denmark was not slow to follow the Elector's example. He made peace with France and Sweden at Fontainebleau, with one difference: the Elector had received at least some advantages but, having waited too long, the King of Denmark did not profit at all.
The peace of St. Germain terminated the military exploits of Frederick-William; his last years were peaceful, and ran out with less drama. However, his great genius manifested itself even in the least actions of his life.
The virtues of this elector adapted themselves according to the circumstances, sometimes appearing more heroic and more sublime, sometimes gentler and more helpful. A general prejudice results in the majority of men idolizing the successful temerity of the ambitious. The brilliant glamour of military virtues renders the gentleness of civil virtues offensive to their eyes. They prefer the Herostratuses who burn temples, to the Amphions who build cities; and the victories of Octavian, to the reign of Augustus. Frederick-William was equally admirable at the head of his armies, when he appeared as the liberator of his country; and at the head of his council, when he administered justice to his people. These fine qualities attracted the confidence of his neighbors; his fairness elevated him to a kind of supreme tribunal which stretched beyond his borders; and he judged or conciliated sovereigns and kings. He was chosen to mediate between the King of Denmark and the city of Hamburg; Christian 5th received a hundred and twenty-five thousand crowns from that city, which was a sponge the Danes pressed when in need; it would have become dry without the support of Frederick-William.
The Orient paid homage to this elector, whose reputation had penetrated as far as the border of Asia. Murad Gherai, Khan of the Tartars, sought his friendship by sending an embassy. The Boudziak's interpreter had a wooden nose and no ears; and the ambassador had to be dressed before he was admitted to the court, because his tatters did not cover his nudity.
Sought by the Tartars, the Elector caused the Spaniards to respect him. That court owed him subsidies, of which he could not obtain payment. He sent to Guinea nine small vessels which he was using in the Baltic; and this modest squadron took a large Spanish man of war, which it led into the port of Koenigsberg.
About this time, following the death of the last administrator of the Duchy of Magdeburg, who was a prince of the house of Saxony, Frederick-William entered into possession of the duchy, which had never previously been incorporated in the Electorate of Brandenburg.
As director of the district of Westphalia, the Elector had the Imperial commission to protect the states of East Friesland against their prince, who was caviling at their privileges. And as he had the eventual right of succession in respect of this principality, he took advantage of the occasion to place a garrison of Brandenburgers at Gretsyhl, and established a company of merchant at Emden, which traded in Guinea and built Great-Fredericksburg there.
Such small advantages were not comparable with those of Louis 14th. That monarch had made peace in times of conquests; he had established chambers of reunion which, by examining ancient charts and documents, adjudged cities and lordships in his favor, putting them in his possession under the pretext that they were originally fiefs or dependencies of the prefecture of Strasburg and Alsace.
Exhausted by a long war, the Empire was contented with written reproaches to Louis 14th; but the Elector, who was not included in the peace of Nijmegen, refused to sign the letter, and concluded an alliance with the Elector of Saxony and the Duke of Hanover, for the maintenance of the Peace of Westphalia and that of St. Germain.
Not wanting to be troubled by the Emperor or the Empire in his peaceful conquests, Louis 14th started action in the East, which was not slow in making extreme problems for Leopold. It was two years until the cease-fire between the Infidels and the Christians would expire. The Turks, however, summoned by the Protestants in Hungary who had revolted against the house of Austria, arrived with a formidable army at the gates of Vienna.
Leopold, who, like the princes of his house, was not a warrior, ran away to Linz, despite all his hauteur. However, Vienna was rescued by King Jan Sobieski of Poland, one of the great men of his century; and the Emperor re-entered Vienna with less glory than pleasure. He wanted to submit neither to France, which was invading Luxemburg, nor to the Turks, who had besieged his capital, although impotent to resist a single one of his enemies. Representations by the pope, the electors of Brandenburg and Bavaria, and some of the principal princes of Germany, brought him in the end to conclude a cease-fire with France, which was signed on 15th August 1684.
In the same year, the Elector made an alliance with the districts of Lower Saxony and Westphalia for their common defense. It was stipulated that the princes who assembled the confederate troops should draw contributions from the neighboring states. The manners of that time are too much characterized by such matters as these to be omitted from our history.
The Elector had pretentions on the Duchies of Jaegerndorf, Ratibor, Oppeln, Brieg, Wohlau and Liegnitz, in Silesia. In all justice, these duchies devolved to him by the Treaty of Confraternity made with the princes who had possessed them, and which was confirmed by the kings of Bohemia. He prided himself with having found a favorable opportunity to ask the Emperor to sanction his pretentions, and at the same time solicited the investiture of Magdeburg. Leopold, who would recognize no rights except his own, no pretentions except those of the house of Austria, and no justice except his pride, agreed to that which he could not refuse: that is to say the investiture of the Duchy of Magdeburg. He attempted to obtain two thousand Brandenburger troops, who he wanted to serve in the war against the Turks; but the Elector was too displeased with him to agree. Two thousand Brandenburgers joined Sobieski's troops and aided the Poles to repulse the Turks who were attacking him.
All these events seemed to contribute to the Elector's advantages. Louis 14th, whose policy had protected the Protestants of Germany against the Emperor, persecuted those of his own kingdom, which was disquieted and uneasy, and he disturbed France by the revocation of the famous Edict of Nantes. He caused an emigration that had scarcely been exemplified in history: an entire people left his kingdom in unison, in hatred of the pope, and to receive communion in two kinds under another sky. Four hundred thousand souls went into exile, abandoning all their possessions, to renew the old psalms of Clement Marot in other temples, much enriching England and Holland with their industry. Twenty thousand Frenchmen established themselves in the Elector's states. Their number partially repaired the depopulation caused by the Thirty Years War. Frederick-William received them with the compassion needed by the unfortunate, and with the generosity of a prince who encouraged the possessors of useful skills for his people. This colony always prospered, and recompensed its benefactor for his protection. From then on, the Electorate of Brandenburg drew from its own breast an infinity of merchandise that it had formerly been obliged to purchase from foreign parts.
Frederick-William realized that his piety had caused a rift with Louis 14th and that he was poorly regarded in France, because of the asylum he had accorded to the refugees. He made new connections with the Emperor and sent him eight thousand men under the command of General Schoening, to serve against the Turks in Hungary. These troops had a great part in the taking of Buda. They acquired a distinguished reputation in the general attack on that city, which they were among the first to enter. After this campaign, however, the Emperor refused them quarters in Silesia and they returned to winter in the Mark of Brandenburg. In recompense for this service, the Emperor ceded the district of Schwiebus to the Elector, by way of recompense for his just pretentions.
The sanctuary of the French [Protestants] in Berlin, and the rescue that the Elector had accorded to the Emperor, succeeded in annoying Louis 14th against him, and he refused to continue the annual subsidy that he had paid him since the peace of St. Germain.
However, Louis 14th openly violated the cease-fire that he had concluded with the Emperor, under the pretext of fulfilling the spirit of the Treaty of Nijmegen. He seized a great number of places in Flanders; he took Treves, and had the outworks demolished; and work was done on raising the fortifications of H�ningen; he supported the pretentions of Charlotte, Princess Palatine, wife of the Duke of Orleans, over a few bailiwicks of the Palatinate, the right to which she had renounced by her marriage contract. So enterprising a neighbor eventually sounded the alarm in Germany; and the districts of Swabia, Franconia, and the Lower Rhine made an alliance at Augsburg, to guard against the continual enterprises which formed the ambition of that monarch.
So many subjects of complaint induced the Emperor to accept: the war with the Turks rendered Leopold circumspect, and the feeble government of Spain did not abandon its lethargy. Nevertheless, we see that in due course the election of the Prince of Fuerstenberg, carried out by the chapter of Cologne through the intrigues of France, finally obliged the Elector to break with a neighbor whose enterprises were unbounded, and who would not recognize any limits to its power.
The Elector did not see the start of this war. For the second time, he accorded his protection to the city of Hamburg, which the King of Denmark besieged in person. His envoys, Paul Fuchs and Schmettau, made Frederick 5th consent to remove his camp from before that city, and to re-establish everything on its [previous] footing before that new enterprise. About this time, the Duke of Weissenfels came to an agreement with the Elector concerning the four bailiwicks dismembered from the Duchy of Magdeburg, of which the duke was in possession. The Elector purchased that of Bourg for thirty-four thousand crowns, and renounced his pretentions concerning Querfurt, Juterbog and Dahme.
The North was on the point of being troubled unwittingly by the differences that the King of Denmark had with the Duke of Gottorp. In hatred of the entire Peace of Roskilde, by which the King of Sweden, Charles-Gustavus, had procured for that duke the entire sovereignty of his states, the Danes chased that prince out of Schleswig and declared that they were resolved to keep possession of that duchy as of Denmark itself. The Emperor Leopold wanted to mix in these disagreements, but the King of Denmark would only consent to place his interests in the hands of the Elector of Brandenburg. Conferences were held at Hamburg and Altona; Frederick 5th offered to cede to the Duke of Gottorp certain counties, whose products equaled the revenues of Schleswig, with the exception of their sovereignty.The Duke refused these offers. The Elector did not have the satisfaction of concluding a compromise, and Death terminated his glorious reign.
Frederick-William had long suffered from gout; that malady degenerated subsequently into hydropsie. He felt the progress of his illness, and saw the approach of Death with an unshakeable firmness. Two days before his end, he assembled his council. Having assisted with the deliberations, and having decided all the matters with sound judgment and entire liberty of spirit, he gave a discourse to his ministers, thanked them for the faithful services that they had rendered him, and exhorted them to serve his son with the same attachment. After that, he addressed the Prince Electoral, explained the duties of a good sovereign, and made him a short analysis of the state in which he left his affairs. He recommended him affectionately to help the Prince of Orange in the expedition that he was considering against England; he insisted above all on the love and preservation of the people that he was about to govern, and commended them, like a good father might recommend his children when he was dying. He subsequently made made some acts of piety, and quietly awaited his death. He expired on 28th April 1688, with that heroic indifference of which he had given so many signs during the fortunate course of his victories.
He had two wives: Henrietta of Orange, mother of Frederick 3rd who succeeded him; and Dorothy of Holstein, mother of the Margraves Philip, Albert and Louis, and of the Princesses Elisabeth-Sophia and Marie-Amelia.
Frederick-William had all the qualities which make great men, and Providence furnished him every occasion to display them. He showed signs of prudence in an age when youth contributed only its distractions; he never abused his heroic virtues, and only used his valor to defend his states and to help his allies. He was far-sighted and wise, which rendered him a great statesman; he was hard-working and humane, which made him good prince. Insensible to the dangerous seductions of love, he had no weakness except for his own wife. If he loved wine and society, this was however without abandoning himself to utter debauch. His lively temperament and anger rendered him subject to fits of rage; but if he was not in control of his first action, he always was of his second; and his heart repaired with abundance the faults that blood, too easy to move, made him commit. His soul was the home of virtue; prosperity was unable to swell him, neither could reverses wear him down. Magnanimous, debonair, generous, humane, he never let his character down. He became the restorer and the defender of his country, the founder of the power of Brandenburg, the arbiter between his equals, the honor of his nation, and finally, to say in one word, his life constituted his eulogy.
In that century, three men drew upon them the attention of all Europe: Cromwell, who usurped England, and covered the regicide of his king with apparent moderation and steady policies; Louis 14th, who made Europe tremble before his power, protected all talents, and rendered his nation respected throughout the universe; Frederick-William, who, with fewer means did great things, served in place of minister and general, and caused a state to flourish that he had found buried under its ruins. The name Great is due only to heroic and virtuous characters; Cromwell, with his profound policies, was soiled with the crimes of his ambition; this would degrade the memory of Louis 14th and of Frederick-William, who put their lives in opposition to that of a fortunate tyrant.
These two princes were regarded, each in his sphere, as the greatest men of their century. Their lives furnish events whose resemblance is striking, and others whose circumstances distance their relationship: to compare these princes with respect to their power, would be like comparing the bolts of Jupiter with the arrows of Philocletes; examining their personal qualities, abstracting their dignities, is to evidence that the Elector's soul and actions were not inferior to the genius and exploits of the Monarch.
They each had a thoughtful and happy physiognomy, marked features, an aquiline nose, eyes which painted the feelings of their soul, an easy manner, a majestic bearing. Louis 14th was taller; he had more gentleness in his bearing, and a more laconic and more nervous expression. In the universities of Holland, Frederick-William had acquired a colder air and more diffuse eloquence. Their origins were equally ancient, but the Bourbons counted more sovereigns than did the Hohenzollerns among their ancestors. The former were kings of a great monarchy, who had long had princes among their vassals. The latter were electors of a small country in extent and therefore partially dependent upon emperors.
The youth of these princes had an almost similar destiny. The King, as a minor, pursued in his kingdom by the Fronde and the princes of his blood was, from a distant mountain, the spectator of the battle that his rebellious subjects carried on with his troops in the Faubourg St. Antoine. The Prince-Electoral, whose father had been despoiled of his states by the Swedes, a fugitive in Holland, underwent his apprenticeship in war under Prince Frederick-Henry of Orange, and distinguished himself at the sieges of the fortresses of Schenk and Breda. Louis 14th, having come to reign, made his kingdom submit by the weight of royal authority. Frederick-William succeeded his father in an invaded country and entered into possession of his heritage by force of politics and negotiations.
Richelieu, Louis 13th's minister, was a genius of the first order. Measures taken for a long time and supported with courage built solid foundations, on which Louis 14th had only to build. Schwartzenberg, George-William's minister, was a traitor, whose bad administration contributed much to plunging the states of Brandenburg into the abyss which Frederick-William found when he reached his reign. The French monarch is praiseworthy for having followed the road of glory that Richelieu had prepared for him. The German hero did more: he found the road alone.
Both these princes commanded their armies. The one, having under him the most famous captains in Europe, rested his successes on the Turennes, the Condés, and the Luxembourgs; encouraging audacity and talent, and exciting merit by enthusiasm to please him. He loved glory more than war; he made great campaigns; he besieged cities, but avoided battles. He was present during that famous campaign in which his generals seized all areas of Flanders held by the Spanish. In the fine expedition, whereby Conde subdued the Franche-Comte in less than three weeks in favor of France, he encouraged his troops by his presence when they crossed the Rhine at the famous ford of Tolhuys: an action that the idolatry of the courtiers and the enthusiasm of the poets made into the miraculous. The other, having scarcely any troops and lacking skillful generals, supplied himself by his powerful genius alone to rescue that which he lacked. He formed his projects and executed them himself. If he thought as a general, he fought as a soldier; and by relating to the situations in which he found himself, he regarded war as his profession.
Against the passage of the Rhine, I set the battle of Warsaw, which lasted three days, and in which the Great Elector was one of the principal instruments of the victory. Against the conquest of the Franche-Comte, I put the surprise of Rathenow, and the battle of Fehrbellin, when our hero, at the head of five thousand cavaliers, defeated the Swedes and chased them outside his border. And if this fact does not appear marvelous enough, I add to it the expedition in Prussia, when his army flew over a frozen sea, making forty miles in eight days, and when the name alone of this great ruler chased the Swedes out of the whole of Prussia, without a fight, so to say.
The actions of a monarch dazzle us by the magnificence which radiates, by the number of troops who compete for his glory, by the superiority that he acquires over all the other kings, and by the importance of objects that interest all Europe. Those of heroes are in the same proportion more admirable, that their courage and their genius do everything for them; that with little means he [Frederick-William] executed the most difficult enterprises, and that the resources of his spirit multiplied to that the obstacles added.
The fortunes of Louis 14th were supported solely during the life of Colbert, Louvois, and of the great captains that France had born. The fortune of Frederick-William was always equal, and accompanied him as long as he was at the head of his own armies. It therefore appears that the greatness of the first was the work of his ministers and of generals, and that the heroism of the second belonged to himself alone.
By his conquests, the king added Flanders, the Franche-Comté, Alsace, and, in a way, Spain, to his monarchy, attracting the jealousy of all the princes of Europe. By treaty, the Elector acquired Pomerania, Magdeburg, Halberstadt and Minden, which he incorporated into Brandenburg; and he used the envy which tore his neighbors, so that they became the instruments of his greatness.
Louis 14th was the arbiter of Europe by his power, which he imposed on the greatest kings. Frederick-William became the oracle of Germany by his virtue, which attracted the confidence of the greatest princes. While so many sovereigns impatiently bore the yoke of despotism that the King of France imposed on them, the King of Denmark and other princes submitted their differences to the Elector's tribunal and respected his equitable judgments.
Francis 1st had tried in vain to attract fine arts to France. Louis 14th succeeded; his protection was astounding. Attic taste and Roman elegance was reborn in Paris; Urania had a compass of gold between her hands; Calliope no longer lamented the sterility of her laurels; and sumptuous palaces served as asylums for the Muses. George-William made useless efforts to preserve agriculture in his country. The Thirty Years War, like a ruinous torrent, devastated all the North of Germany. Frederick-William repopulated his States; he changed marshes into grasslands, deserts into townships, ruins into cities; and one saw numerous flocks in places where there had been only wild animals. The useful arts are the elders of the pleasant ones and they must necessarily precede them.
Louis 14th merited immortality for having protected the arts; the Elector's memory will be dear to his last posterity, for not despairing of his country. The sciences require statues to the one, whose liberal protection served to illuminate the world. Humanity requires monuments to the other, whose magnanimity repopulated the earth.
The king chased the Protestants out of his kingdom, and the Elector received them in his States. In this respect, a hard and superstitious prince is far inferior to a tolerant and charitable one; policy and humanity agree to give entire preference to the Elector's virtues on this matter.
With regard to gallantry, politeness, generosity, magnificence, and the French sumptuousness, compared to the German frugality, carries it off greatly. Louis 14th had as much advantage over Frederick-William as Lucullus over Mithridates.
The one granted subsidies by squeezing his peoples; the other received them, relieving his own. In France, Samuel Bernard bankrupted himself to save the credit of the Crown. In the Mark, the bank of the Estates paid, despite the irruption of the Swedes, the pillage of the Austrians and the calamity of pestilence.
Both of them made treaties and broke them, the one because of ambition, the other out of necessity. The power of princes eludes the slavery of their word, by free and independent will; princes who have less power fail in their engagements, often obliged to give in to the situation.
Towards the end of his reign, the Monarch allowed himself to be governed by his mistress, and the hero, by his wife. The pride of mankind would be humbled too much, if the fragility of these demi-gods did not teach us that they are men like us.
They both ended as great men, as they had lived. Seeing the approach of Death with an unshakable firmness; leaving the pleasures, fortune, glory, and life, with stoical indifference; holding the government of the State with a sure hand, up to the moment of their death; all their last thoughts on their peoples, recommending them to their successors with a paternal tenderness; and having justified, by a life full of glory and of wonders, the surname of Great that they received from their contemporaries and that posterity confirms with a common voice.